Preparations for the auto show, which opens to the public Jan. 18, continue at Cobo Center on Friday. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
This year’s North American International Auto Show marks the first time since 2009 that the downturn of the auto industry and its lingering aftereffects are officially a thing of the past.
With General Motors Co. out from under government ownership and the global economy on the mend, automakers are ready to show off the biggest, most powerful and best vehicles they have to offer. This year’s show — it’s the 25th anniversary — will feel more like the frenzied Detroit shows from before the Great Recession, organizers say.
“This is the first face that the world is going to see after bankruptcy,” said Scott LaRiche, vice chairman of this year’s show. “When you look at manufacturers taking time to put their best foot forward and spend the money that they’re spending in Detroit, they trust in the fact they are going to get the bang for their buck.”
Detroit’s auto show may not draw the public attendance of the Chicago Auto Show, which last year drew more than 1.2 million visitors. And some debuts have shifted to the LA Auto Show, which takes place about two months before the Detroit show. But the North American International Auto Show remains the Rose Bowl of auto shows: Attendance this year could top 800,000 visitors and 5,000 journalists from 65 countries — and it still draws the largest concentration of auto executives and is home to the biggest reveals.
“It’s history,” Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds.com, said in a telephone interview. “This is where cars started and it’s the heart of the automotive history. There’s just so much interest. It doesn’t have the high traffic numbers for the Chicago show, but it’s very important, especially for the domestic Three.”
Of course, looming over the auto show for the first time will be Detroit’s bankruptcy, the largest for a municipality in U.S. history. The auto show, though, is expected to bring a local economic boost of between $380 million and $395 million, said David Sowerby of Bloomfield Hills-based Loomis, Sayles & Co.
Most of that impact will come from the public show days, which run from Jan. 18-26 at Cobo Center, where $300 million in improvements are nearly complete. Media and industry preview days start Monday, though some automakers plan to jump the gun with vehicle reveals the night before.
The entrance fee this year is an extra buck, but the cars and trucks on the show floor will more than make up for the slight price increase.
The annual Charity Preview on Friday adds a glamorous and musical element that could help the show raise more than $4 million for charity this year. Grammy-award-winning singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow will cap the Charity Preview with a 75-minute performance. Tickets are $350; money raised goes to local children’s charities, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan and Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation.
This year, more than 50 vehicles will make their global debuts, including the brawny but lightweight next-gen Ford F-150, the GMC Canyon midsize pickup and the rejuvenated Chrysler 200 midsize car.
There will be several performance vehicles at the Detroit show, including debuts of the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Porsche 911 Targa, Lexus RC-F coupe and the Kia GT 4 Stinger. It’s also the first auto show for the new Ford Mustang, which was revealed last month. It’s possible show-goers will see a new Toyota Supra concept, said Karl Brauer, senior director of insights for Kelley Blue Book.
“There’s going to be high-performance vehicles all over that hall,” he said.
Luxury offerings include the Porsche Macan compact crossover, the Mercedes-Benz GLA small crossover, the BMW M3 and M4 sedans and the new Cadillac ATS coupe.
Green cars will also be on display, including an updated Lexus CT200h, the electric BMW i3 and i8 and a solar-powered Ford C-Max Energi plug-in car.
Find these highlights and more at detroitnews.com:
Saturday night: Gallery of luxury cars at MGM Grand
Sunday morning: First look at GMC Canyon, with live coverage of reveal Sunday evening
Sunday night: Urban Wheel Awards
Monday morning: First looks at Ford F-150, Chrysler 200, Corvette Z06, BMW 2-Series Coupe, possible Toyota Supra concept, plus North American Car and Truck of the Year awards
Monday afternoon: First looks at Porsche 911 Targa, Volkswagen Beetle Dune concept, Hyundai Genesis, Honda Fit
Tuesday morning: First looks at Cadillac ATS Coupe, Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge concept and Lexus RC 350 coupe and F Sports Sedan